Chippewa County, Wisconsin Board decides to continue investigation into sheriff

Community members defend Wisconsin sheriff accused of misconduct

Community members defend Wisconsin sheriff accused of misconduct

Members of the Chippewa County, Wisconsin Board decided to continue investigating Sheriff Travis Hakes during a closed-door session on Tuesday evening.

As previously reported by 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS, an investigator was hired to look into misconduct allegations against Hakes found evidence of “problematic conduct and a lack of leadership.”

RELATED: Investigation report into Wisconsin sheriff finds ‘unequivocal evidence of problematic conduct’

Also as previously reported, Hakes has said the investigative report contained inaccuracies.

RELATED: Chippewa County, WI sheriff claims ‘inaccuracies’ in outside investigator’s report

Hakes told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS before the meeting that he would address the county board regarding the report during Tuesday’s meeting.

“There are some things I’m accused of that I certainly didn’t do, one of them obviously would be financially benefiting from employees, I never did that,” Hakes said. “I can see how that wouldn’t sit well with people, but when the truth comes out it’s something I didn’t do.”

The report’s author wrote, “In the course of conducting the investigation, substantial evidence suggested other violations of County and Department policies and Wisconsin state statutes in the area of conflict of interest,” saying evidence suggests Hakes:

“Conducted sales activities, advertised using his name and conducted transactions during work hours in which he has sold guns, knives, mugs and real estate to Department employees and others.”

The county board’s agenda indicates that discussion could include consideration of and authorizing pursuit of removal proceedings pursuant to Wis. Stat. Ch. 17 against the sheriff.

“I don’t believe anything I did would actually constitute a removal,” Hakes said.

The Wisconsin Legislative Council wrote in a memorandum that the governor can remove elected county officers “for cause,” adding that they may be removed “for inefficiency, neglect of duty, official misconduct, or malfeasance in office.”

The county hired the firm von Briesen & Roper to investigate the complaint. That report detailed “substantial evidence” suggesting Hakes “was attempting to entice (the complainant) into a personal relationship.”

Hakes disputes the findings of the report, which also claimed: “…by the plain language and photos within the texts, some are unequivocally sexual in nature” involving a county employee.

“I can tell you my grandmother read those text messages — and she didn’t think there was anything inappropriate in them,” Hakes said. “Some of the text messages were taken out of context.”

Nearly every member of the public who spoke at the meeting said they read the texts and urged the County Board to not remove him from office.

Chippewa County Board Supervisor Rob Teuteberg posted on social media that he is asking the sheriff to step down based in part on the investigative report’s findings.

“I restate (by) my formal call for Sheriff Hakes to resign and save both himself and Chippewa County the financial and emotional distress of this difficult process,” Teuteberg posted on Facebook.

Wisconsin Legislative Reference Bureau staff members say based on their initial search, it appears there’s at least one instance where a governor tried to remove a sheriff back in 1922, but it was overturned later by the courts.